Written by General Jabbo
The staggering career of Elvis Presley is often defined by certain key moments or phrases. Just mentioning Sun Records or Elvis going into the Army or the ’68 Comeback Special conjures up specific images in not only all Presley fans, but in many music fans as well. It is for good reason—these were watershed moments in rock and roll history. The moment he is, perhaps, most famous for came in early 1973 though, when his charity concert in Hawaii was broadcast across the world—a first for a full-length show. The show was a huge success and rush-released on LP. Now, to commemorate its 40th anniversary, the show is being rereleased as Elvis Presley: Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite [Legacy Edition].
While the ’68 Comeback Special was, arguably, the beginning of Presley’s second great period, at least in the general public’s eye, Aloha serves as a fitting bookend to this great time in his career. While Presley was heavier than he was in 1968, his “fat Elvis” period and drug-fueled rants onstage about not being strung out were more than a year away. Still, he knew the importance of the event and, with the help of trainers, lost 25 pounds for the event. Looking better than he had in some time, and always in great voice, the King was ready to make history, and make history he did.
To ensure a smooth satellite transmission with no hiccups, Presley and his band recorded two shows, the warm-up show from January 12 and the actual broadcast from January 14. In addition, they recorded five more songs at 3:00 a.m. after the satellite broadcast for the U.S. version of the show. Even though Presley never toured Europe and was considered the ultimate American artist, there was the issue of his movie, Elvis On Tour, which was still playing in theaters in America. So while the rest of the world saw Elvis in January, America had to wait until April. The wait was certainly worth it.
After the dramatic opening of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Presley’s band launched into an energetic “See See Rider,” with its familiar horn riffs blaring. Presley feeds off their energy and delivers a strong performance. Not letting the crowd come up for the air, he follows that with “Burning Love,” his last top-ten hit in America and a throwback to his younger days. While Presley supposedly did not care for the song initially, one would not know it from this performance and it became a staple in his live shows.
As Presley got older, more ballads and “mature” songs made their way into his shows and Aloha is no exception. A fine cover of The Beatles’ “Something” is followed by a powerful version of “You Gave Me A Mountain.” The journey away from corny movie songs that began in 1968 was in full force in 1973 and Presley sounds energized singing the material. He is one of the few singers that could pull off “My Way” without sounding ridiculous and, sadly, its lyrics about the end being near proved to be prophetic as he would be gone only four years later.
Presley did not forget his roots in the show either. From a playful version of “Love Me” to barn-burning versions of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and his own “A Big Hunk ‘O Love,” Presley had, to use his own album title, something for everybody in this show. The show closed as all Presley shows did, with his 1961 classic, “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
The satellite broadcast contained on disc one has been remastered and sounds fantastic. Disc two was previously released under the title, The Alternate Aloha, and, by all accounts, needed a remix. It gets one here and the band sounds full and strong. In fact, the mix for the back-up show may actually be more powerful than the main show. The five additional songs recorded at 3 a.m. are included here as well. The performance on both shows is, of course, superb.
Presley would, of course, tour relentlessly for the remainder of his life and while he battled with weight and other health issues, his voice never left him. Still, if the Sun period until about 1962 was his first peak, 1968 to 1973 was definitely his second, and what a way to cap it. Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite [Legacy Edition] is a must-own for any Presley fan.